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Want Emotional Freedom? Joseph Goldstein on Not Knowing

not knowingWhat is it about us that we often feel like we have to be right at the expense of our mental health or the health of our relationships?

The need to be right causes so much suffering and the truth is, most of the time we feel we’re right about an opinion which is a subjective stance that other people are free to have different views on. We’re right about being a Democrat versus a Republican, we’re right about one side of abortion over another, we’re right about whose turn it is to wash the dishes. I guess the real question is, as we’re steeped in our right-ness, how are we feeling?

Usually pretty contracted and stuck. What would it be like to practice not knowing?

Joseph Goldstein is the author of One Dharma along with many other books and known as one of the leaders in bringing mindfulness to the west. He’s giving a talk at InsightLA in Santa Monica on January 4th at 7:30pm.

In a PBS write up, he tells us to get comfortable with not-knowing:

“We don’t know a lot. We don’t know much more than we know. And it’s a relief to let go of our attachment to views, our attachment to opinions, especially about things we don’t know. A new mantra began to form in my mind: “Who knows?” This not-knowing is not a quality of bewilderment; it’s not a quality of confusion. It actually is like a breath of fresh air, an openness of mind. Not knowing is simply holding an open mind regarding these very interesting questions to which we might not yet have answers.”

This is simply about peeling the lens back on our lives and seeing what is effective and not effective. It’s not effective to cling so strongly to our opinions that we get in arguments in our minds or with the people we care about.

On a late summer night in 2004 my family was sitting around the table having a good time when the topic of George Bush versus John Kerry came up. I noticed the temperature in my body rise as a discussion quickly turned into a heated argument. Voices started to rise; we were all so right about our opinions. I was feeling a lot of anger and at one point my brother in-law got so fed up that he left the house.

While we held resentments and grudges in our hearts, we still believed we were all so right.

Sometimes what’s best is to look at the end results of our right-ness and ask ourselves if that’s what we really want? I know that’s not what we wanted as a family dinner, but we were stuck.

Learning to hold our opinions with open hands, but not cling so tight to them can be a path toward greater peace in our minds and our relationships.

Joseph Goldstein shares some words from his teacher, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche. He said, “I would like to pass on one little bit of advice I give to everyone: Relax. Just relax. Be nice to each other. As you go through your life, simply be kind to people. Try to help them rather than hurt them. Try to get along with them, rather than fail out with them.”

Try and see where in you cling so tight to your opinions at your expense or the expense of others.

Practice saying, “Who knows.”

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Photo by Christian Revival Network, available under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial license.

Want Emotional Freedom? Joseph Goldstein on Not Knowing

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2019). Want Emotional Freedom? Joseph Goldstein on Not Knowing. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Mar 2019
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